Skip to content

E.4.2 The Fellowcraft Degree

This degree is a direct extension of the first; it is not known why they were separated, as we do not know why the third one was separated from the second, but these two operations lessened its importance. There is a big difference between the old operative Fellow, or Fellowcraft, and the present speculative Fellowcraft. For the operative mason it was a big step in his working life to be promoted from Entered Apprentice to Fellow, as this last qualification meant that he was now a full member of the community, and that he could work as a Master. This was the same in speculative Masonry at the beginning of the eighteenth century when a Fellow had all the qualifications needed to become the Master of his lodge as well as an officer of high rank in the Craft.

Later on, the “Antients” put more importance on the Masonic grade of Master Mason, and insisted that this qualification be required to become Master of a lodge. Fellowcraft Masons had to go through the esoteric ceremony of Installation before they could rise to any rang in the Order. For the “Moderns”, the Fellowcraft qualification was enough to become Master of a Lodge, or Grand Officers. However, with the Union of 1813, the Fellowcraft Degree lost some of its importance, and the United Grand Lodge imposed the “Antients” rules. As a result, since then, the Fellowcraft Mason is in a mid-way position in Freemasonry, higher than the Entered Apprentices, but much lower than the Master Masons even if his ceremony had carried further the ideas and philosophies introduced at his Initiation.

The word “Craft” is of Teutonic origin (kraft) and means power and strength. In England of the thirteenth century, it took another meaning that Freemasons still associate with it to day; that is Art, dexterity, skill, or cunning of hands or mind. Craft also means skilled trade or occupation. Craft, soon enough, came to mean a trade mystery, a guild, and a brotherhood or fraternity. The early merchant guilds became Craft guilds, and these guilds became known as a “Craft”. Freemasonry adopted the word in this sense probably through the London Company of masons. It is above all used for the first three degrees, known as symbolic degrees.

A Craftsman is, of course, somebody who practises a Craft and, among the Freemasons, it is somebody who has passed to the Second Degree. In the old days a mason was “Crafted” by being made a Fellowcraft. At that time a Fellow was a member of a fraternity, such as a guild. Guilds have also been known as “fellowship” and Freemasonry is still known by that word. The word Craft is derived from an old Norse word “felage” meaning partnership and implying equality and friendly association. The early Constitutions used three words meaning the same thing: Fellow, Craftsman and Fellowcraft and in the end the last one was adopted as the official name of the Second Degree.